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rights-of-way under the project of 1928 has exceeded their former contribution by over 30 percent.
Now, I want to show you what enters into that.
After estimating anew the cost of the enlargement of the levee lands on the Mississippi River in accordance with the number of miles contained therein, and bringing that up to the new adopted grade and section, the engineers-I am not now undertaking to criticize them; I am giving you the picture, because they are doing the very best work they can, and they are doing it in accordance with their conception of the economies of the situation. They are engaged in very earnest and unselfish work to protect that valley from the menace of these floods that are pitched down on those people, which they are forced to contend with.
But the engineers, in order to effectuate that economy, have made some set-backs here to save money, and they do not hesitate a moment to say so, because they are very frank with us.
I am going to give you this illustration in connection with the McComb Point plantation on the Mississippi River, one of the olddeveloped areas of that river, containing 3,200 acres of the most highly developed land you will find in the country, between Cape Girardeau and the Gulf, 3,200 acres of as highly improved land as you will find anywhere in the Mississippi Valley.
This is a magnificent old southern home located here, with an unusually attractive lot of tenant houses and gardens, splendidly drained, and with everything in the world to make that plantation one of the most desirable properties you could conceive of.
It would cost the Government $450,000 to bring this existing levee along near the bank of the Mississippi River around that point, up to the 1928 grade and section. It would only cost $200,000 to build this two and a quarter miles of levee across that point, and the engineers built that cut-off levee here [indicating on map].
Mr. WEARIN. Considering the saving that is going to be made by shortening that levee and then proceeding on from there, how much would it cost under this bill to compensate the landowners and tenants, or any others involved in that change?
Mr. DRIVER. It would cost practically the difference between the amount of money for the cut-off levee and the cost of bringing this existing levee up to the 1928 grade and section, and according to the estimate it would be slightly under the amount of money that was actually saved.
In other words, if it was placed squarely before them as a business proposition as to whether or not you would make the cut-off and pay the compensation to the landowner, it would amount to less than half the amount of money that will be required to be paid to fully compensate the landowner and for the construction of the setback levee.
Those are not all the elements that enter into this equation. When these levees are built up near the bank of the Mississippi River there is always the opportunity there for some future danger and the requirement of some additional expense in order to maintain the levee. In other words, it may be necessary to build a loop here in order to save the point here [indicating on map], where erosion would set in, or a loop here [indicating on map]. It may be it would require some revetment work here [indicating on map] eventually, should erosion start on the bank of the river, or start in front of the levee.
It may require some future expenditure that might well enter into the question of economy on which the engineers are determining their conduct. Those are the situations that have developed here.
And this is purely a case of the saving of money, and that is inevitable.
But let us view the situation from the standpoint of the local people. No provision is made under the law for compensation for these lands that are thrown to the channel of the Mississippi River. If that were required, there would be very, very few districts that would be able to compensate the landowners, because under the additional burden imposed upon the districts in providing rights-of-way and paying for the damages, to get the necessary levee structures, there is a most difficult banking situation imposed upon these districts to meet their maturing interest obligations, and in many instances they are required to postpone those payments and adjust the maturities of the principal of their outstanding debts.
Here is the other picture from the standpoint of the local people. The levee districts that constructed the foundation of this levee around this particular place and that usually is true of all the situations along the Mississippi River-was organized in 1893. From 1893 up to this period, or the period when that land was thrown to the channel of the Mississippi River, the owners of the land paid, in common with the owners of all of the other land within that levee district, the same rate of taxation to afford them protection from the floods on the Mississippi River.
During that period of 38 years every acre of the land in that area, every acre of the land down in the Mississippi and the Louisiana areas that suffered alike, had contributed their proportionate part of the cost of the protection they attempted to provide for themselves; and at the wind-up the property was severed from the protected areas, due to the overflows in that river, and without a chance in the world of securing one cent of compensation for the destruction of that value. Mr. ZIMMERMAN. It is true, is it not, that, so far as that land is concerned, no loans could be secured on it?
Mr. DRIVER. It has no market value.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. No loans could be secured to make a crop on it or do anything else?
Mr. DRIVER. Oh, no. Mr. Zimmerman, we have in the Mississippi River many islands where timber growth occurred. They were elevated, some of them, in a comparative way, with the elevation of the banks on each side of the river. Those lands have been cleared by some adventurous spirits, and they stand the chance of cultivating those lands during periods when we have early overflows or no overflows in the Mississippi River. They do produce wonderful crops. But the land is cultivated by the people in a haphazard way between the levees. They take their chances. They will go in there after a flood and perhaps they will plant some light crop and produce splendid crops, when they can do it. They are likely to plant a crop, however, and have it wiped away almost overnight.
We have a lot of overflows coming out of the Missouri River sufficient to get over that type of land and they destroy the crops. absolutely.
These lands that come out under the levee rectification are exactly in a class with the land on the islands, or some lands left originally
in front of the levee line on the shore of the main river. It has no value; no one would deal with it on the basis of so much per acre. It has no rental value. It is just land on which men might take a haphazard chance. No loans are made on it. Such lands are not regarded by the local people as having a value.
That is the situation, gentlemen, as it exists there. Possibly I could go into more detail as to the condition of these districts that would make it a matter of impossibility for them to make this contribution. They have no authority to do it. They could secure no authority to do it, because it is generally known that this project is national in its scope, and that is one of the obligations that should accompany the responsibility.
Another factor is this: We are all opposed, as a rule, to paying any more contributions for our Government concerns than possible; and when there is no law providing for compensation for losses of this sort, it would be impossible to secure consideration for these people without some man objecting somewhere, no matter what the disposition of the people as a whole may be, if they possess the ability to do it, which I know they do not.
Mr. RICH. If this bill, H. R. 7349, were to pass, you would not figure that any contributions would be made to those individuals taking a chance on these islands that you speak of?
Mr. DRIVER. Not a cent on earth.
Mr. RICH. There is no thought in the minds of any member of the committee that these islands that have been in the habit of being flooded would be considered under a bill of this kind?
Mr. DRIVER. Let me say to my friend from Pennsylvania that no lands are involved here which have not enjoyed protection from the floods of the river through the local structures existing at the time. It is only those lands involved in the set-backs made under the definitions of the act of 1928, providing for flood protection on the Mississippi River, that are involved.
Mr. RICH. Wherein the Government is assuming the responsibility and placing these set-backs, and the only land involved is the land that might be flooded during high water because of the fact of the existing of set-backs?
Mr. DRIVER. It is exclusively confined to that area.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. You were born and raised on the Mississippi River, were you not?
Mr. DRIVER. Yes.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. And lived there for several years?
Mr. DRIVER. I could throw a clod from the place of my birth to a levee when I was 4 years old.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. As to the fact that you mentioned in reference to the additional cost of revetment work on the river, has it not been the policy of the Government to increase the expenditure for that purpose, and has not that become a big item along the levees? Mr. DRIVER. As to the revetment cost, the great expense connected with it is only used for emergency purposes. They do not lay off on the river mighty revetments or banks, or segments of the river. They provide only for revetment work where the erosion is such that they are required to do it, and not for the protection of the levee line entirely but for the protection of the channel alinement. They must
confine those waters so that they can get the proper depth in the channel.
Revetment work secures the integrity of that channel for the engineers, and it is usually used for navigation purposes, although it affords a dual value.
The CHAIRMAN. Did you give the distance around the old levee? Mr. DRIVER. It is 14 miles around and 2 and a quarter miles across. The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Whittington, if you desire to make a statement, we will be very glad to have you do so at this time.
Mr. WHITTINGTON. The pending bill, H. R. 7349, provides for the payment of the cost of the landowners of the setback levees, not contemplated by the Flood Control Act of May 15, 1928.
The Flood Control Act of May 15, 1928, provided that the local interests should furnish the rights-of-way for the levees along the Mississippi River. That act authorized an appropriation over a period of 10 years of $325,000,000. Eighty millions of the $325,000,000 were for revetments. The hearings disclosed that the life of the levees along the main river was approximately 20 years.
The proposed legislation is really a clarification of the Flood Control Act of 1928 and does not involve any additional authorization or appropriation. It is to compensate the districts and the landowners where the project has been or really will be constructed for less money than was contemplated under the act of 1928.
Instead of constructing new levees based upon a life of 20 years, the Corps of Engineers constructed them based upon a life of 30 years.
Instead of levying and expending the $80,000,000 provided by the act, the Corps of Engineers have set back the levees to eliminate the costs of revetment.
I am not familiar with the Willow Point case
The CHAIRMAN. Not the Willow Point, but the Wilson Point case. Mr. WHITTINGTON. The Wilson Point case in Louisiana and the Willow Point case, too, because there is a Willow Point case as I recall.
But I have in mind many cases where the banks were revetted, and as I remember in cases between Baton Rouge and New Orleans in Louisiana, and in the vicinity of Greenville, Miss., the cost of the protecting levee, as enlarged to the 1928 grade and section by the construction of revetments costing from $600,000 to $1,000,000 a mile in some cases would be very much greater than the cost of setting those levees back, even including the cost of the flowage rights to the landowners.
So I repeat that the proposed legislation is in reality a clarification of the act of 1928. It will not relieve the local interests or the States of any obligations provided for by that act, but it will compensate the landowners, and in cases where local interests have provided rights-of-way and flowage rights, for the damages sustined by virtue of having provided them.
By reference to the hearing held by the Committee on Flood Control, on page 4830, parts 6 and 7 of the hearings on the Flood Control Act of 1928, you will note that the cost of all rights-of-way as given to us by the Chief of Engineers under the adopted project was $4,088,790.
There are two levee boards in the State of Mississippi between Memphis and Vicksburg, the upper levee board located at Clarksville, and the lower levee board located at Greenville.
I wanted to know what the local interests would be required to contribute under the terms of the act of May 15, 1928, so on page 4830 of the hearings I asked General Jadwin the cost to the local interests of providing rights-of-way in the upper Mississippi River district, and the answer was that his estimate was $68,796.
When the new levee line was constructed, taking in the old levee districts and extending approximately 90 miles below Memphis to the northern boundary line of Bolivar County, instead of rebuilding the existing levee line and protecting it by revetment as contemplated by the act, they set back that levee and required the local levee board to provide rights-of-way for those set-backs, with the result that the local levee board, instead of being required to obligate itself for $68,796, the amount given us by the Chief of Engineers, were required in that district alone to expend and obligate themselves for more than $900,000, or more than ten times the estimated cost as given to the committee by the Chief of Engineers.
If the Government is to reimburse that levee board and the property owners out of the authorizations already made and out of the appropriations already made, it would be more economical on the part of the Government than to have built the necessary revetments and to have protected the relocation of the levees as contemplated in the act.
In the lower Mississippi or Greenville Levee District there have been even larger relocations. There was an enormous set-back in the city of Greenville, and the mayor of Greenville, Hon. Merlin Smith, is here this morning at this hearing. That level board, according to the statement of the Chief of Engineers at the time of the hearing on this act and the modifications and amendments under consideration, stated that the cost of the relocation in that district was approximately $1,168,420.
That levee district has already expended some $450,000, or $500,000 more than the Chief of Engineers estimated, by reason of the cut-offs across these lands instead of revetting the banks.
So I submit that the act under consideration will merely effectuate the intention of the Flood Control Act of 1928, and will not require any additional authorization or appropriation, but will pay those owners down there for land required for a levee that would survive for 30 years, or for 20 years, and not only that, but by that will largely eliminate the construction of levees.
In other words, in respect to this matter the Chief of Engineers, General Jadwin, testified that the costs of the rights-of-way in the lower valley, including whatever values there were for the setbacks then contemplated to the local interests would be around $4,000,000. As disclosed by the hearings, and in the hearing on the pending bill, the chief engineer for the Mississippi River levee district and for the Yazoo-Mississippi. Delta Mississippi River district stated that was the exact amount, substantially as I have given it, that those two levee boards were required to obligate themselves for to provide for rights-of-way and flowage rights for the execution of the project. Those levee districts, with the information before the committee as